Marijuana arrests drastically increase

Stuart Hughes

The number of marijuana possession arrests at SDSU totaled 15 in 2009, quadrupled to 64 last year, and have reached 184 in 2011.

That marks a 1,200-percent increase over three years, with this year’s total outnumbering the last four years combined.

Dan Tuchscherer, a Community Assistant in Jackrabbit Village, said Residential Life is following the marijuana trend closely. A significant percentage of those arrests occur in university-operated housing.

“CA training has been intensified,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of specific training to deal with pot, and all CA’s are extremely proactive when dealing with marijuana.”


In South Dakota, marijuana’s distinct odor is enough to constitute probable cause for a police search. SDSUPD Detective Cora Olson said the odor is increasingly reported in residence halls.

“We’ve gotten a lot more calls regarding marijuana lately,” Tuchscherer said. “It’s basically right in front of our faces.”

The city of Brookings has seen an increase of marijuana arrests as well. Brookings Police Chief Jeff Miller said these are not due to increased enforcement.

“Marijuana isn’t as high a priority as harder drugs like methamphetamine or heroin, but we enforce all the laws, he said. “And if it’s against the law, it’s against the law, and we will enforce it.”

Possessing less than two ounces of marijuana in South Dakota is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $1,000. Possessing more than two ounces is a felony and carries with it a fine of up to $10,000 and a mandatory 30-day jail sentence.

South Dakota has voted against adopting medical marijuana twice in 2006 and 2010.

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy founder Melissa Beadle offers her speculation to the spike in arrests, saying it’s a matter of police priority.

“There are harmful drugs out there, but marijuana is not one of them,” she said. “Instead of busting rural meth labs, cops are out there busting college students for pot.”

Beadle led an effort in Brookings to legalize the use of medical marijuana during the 2010 referendum that South Dakota voters rejected at more than 60 percent.

SDSU Sociology Professor Eric Guthrie said that the rise in arrests could stem from a gradual shift in views on the drug on a national level.

“Ideas of right and wrong are fluid and change with time,” Guthrie said. “But the national trending line has pointed towards legalization.”

Olson and Miller did not wish to speculate on the exponential increase in arrests.

“If you find out, let me know,” Miller said.